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by Heidi Hayes Jacobs
Ubiquitous in every sphere of education; the word “technology” is splattered loosely. No subliminal messaging here, the term is to mean that schools with wifi, tablets, one to one laptop programs, and smart boards are preparing students for the future. Simply having a computer doesn’t mean that the curriculum and instruction are contemporary and relevant. Students can be using the internet to research irrelevant and dated content. A word processor does not ensure quality writing competence. When a group of middle school students runs around campus with flip cameras, it is unlikely they will produce a first rate documentary. Perhaps there is some kind of magical thinking, that digital tools will prompt innovative outcomes.I share this concern as a firmly committed advocate for the modernization of learning opportunities.
Most telling is our current obsession with dated assessment forms. Teachers are not encouraged to innovate when their institutions are pushing time traveling to the past. Although mission statements are packed with phrases like “tomorrow’s school” and “careers of the future” and “global preparedness”, the truth is that all fifty states in my country value assessments that are basically identical in format to those used thirty years ago.Multiple choice, short answer essay prompts to de-contextualized paragraphs are the raison de vivre. Some national publishers are creating on-line testing, but the items are still the same type as those used when standardized testing first was developed. Certainly our learners need ACCESS to the global portals and dynamic applications available through digital media in order to become literate and connected, but access is insufficient.
We should pay attention to school faculties, leaders, and individual teachers who are actively and boldly upgrading curriculum content to reflect timely issues and problems and crafting modern assessments such as digital-media-global project based learning opportunities. Website curation, app design, global network research, and video/audio production are indicative of modern learning environments not only for students but for their teachers as well. What might happen if in our discourse we replace the loose use of the word technology with the phrase contemporary learning environments?
Mr. Coleman has already said that he hopes to align the SAT with the Common Core standards, which could further alter the identity of an exam that was long ago conceived of as a measure of students’ abilities—and not as an achievement test. Moreover, he believes the standards provide a blueprint for helping more students succeed in Advanced Placement courses. “What the Common Core does in combination with the College Board is make it more realistic for us as a society to make sure that a kid’s educational life is richer and more rigorous every year,” he said, “so there’s not this sudden rise in challenge when it comes time to take an examination.”
“As American students continue to fall behind foreign peers, 45 states and Washington, D.C. have adopted the Common Core State Standards, a new set of academic benchmarks aimed at raising the bar for teaching and learning across the country.
But as John Merrow reports for PBS News, meeting the new requirements won’t be easy for many schools, as a long-taught reading curriculum for young children still learning to sound out words doesn’t comply with the Common Core’s guidelines for emphasis on nonfiction in literacy education…”
“Science and social studies classes could look a little different next year as all New York City schools gradually adapt to a new set of curriculum standards.
The standards, called the Common Core, are expected to be in place at schools across 42 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands by 2014, but New York City is introducing them gradually, increasing each year the extent to which schools must adhere to them…”
“In June, a yearlong joint initiative by 48 states produced a set of uniform but voluntary educational standards in English and math. Urged on by the Obama administration, the initiative’s main purpose was to encourage states with low academic standards to bring their expectations into line with those of other states. Twenty states have already adopted the standards; 28 more, including California, are considering them. Texas and Alaska are the only states that declined to participate in the project…
California has among the highest academic standards in the country; the new “common core standards” would neither toughen nor weaken them appreciably. But the state still has something important to gain by adopting them: a more coherent blueprint for instruction that builds students’ skills in a clear and sensible way, and allows teachers to delve more deeply into each subject…”
“Now, the standards face what experts say is their biggest challenge yet: faithful translation from expectations on paper to instruction in classrooms.
The implementation stage brims with possibilities both promising and threatening, depending on one’s perspective…
…Whether opponents’ nightmares come true, or advocates’ hopes are borne out, will depend largely on how the standards are put into practice.”
“A quiet, sub-rosa fear is brewing among supporters of the Common Core State Standards Initiative: that the standards will die the slow death of poor implementation in K-12 classrooms…
…It’s a Herculean task, given the size of the public school teaching force and the difficulty educators face in creating the sustained, intensive training that research indicates is necessary to change teachers’ practices.”